Remembering the Holocaust 2015

Remembering the Holocaust
Thoughts on the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau

Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

I have visited many European sites where millions were murdered during the Holocaust. For me, the site that, more than any other, sends a chill down my spine is the Wannsee Villa in Berlin.

It is an elegant country villa on the shore of a beautiful lake. At this picturesque spot, top Nazi officials planned how to wipe out the Jewish people. The official invitation to attend was sent by the Deputy Head of the SS. It read: The Chief of the Reich Main Security Office, Reinhard Heydrich, cordially invites you to a discussion about the Final Solution to the Jewish problem. Breakfast will be served at 9.00am.

Over a tasty meal, fifteen men sat down to determine the fate of the Jews. No one present questioned their mission or its justification. After cognac they began their work to annihilate my people.

Today is the 70th anniversary of the end of the Holocaust. As we remember the fate of 6 million Jews and many other victims, we owe it to those who suffered to ask: Have the lessons of the Holocaust been learned?

The first essential lesson is the need for education lest people forget.

Our children need to know the truth in order to ensure that the brutality of the Holocaust will not stain the world again.

Secondly, we must teach compassion, kindness and selflessness. We must learn to practice loving acceptance of all people created in the Divine image, recognising that everyone has the right to freedom of conscience and expression.

Thirdly, open-mindedness will not suffice. Tolerance without boundaries – in particular tolerance of cruelty, falsehood and intolerance – has proved fatal to liberty.

A free society must respond courageously and emphatically when faced by forces of evil that seek to destroy our civilisation.

Since Holocaust Memorial Day last year antisemitic incidents have increased sharply in many parts of the world, including the UK. Recent events have shown the extent to which the civilised world today is threatened by the malign intentions of would-be mass murderers.

Our situation is not nearly as grave as the 1930’s but the lessons learned from then remain true today. Early signs of the breakdown of constructive co-existence must never go undetected. If they are ignored, disregard for human life, lust for power and self-righteous cruelty can simply spin out of control.

On this Holocaust Memorial Day, we must dedicate ourselves to education and develop the courage to protect our society from purveyors of hatred and terror.

Let us remember the past for the sake of a peaceful and secure future.

The words of Ephraim Mirvis, Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. BBC Radio 4 broadcast, 27 January 2015.

War in Europe long anticipated

UK Parliament often discussed war in Europe before 1914

Both Winston Churchill and his father, Lord Randolph Churchill, warned of the dangers of a war in Europe. This was clearly a common topic for discussion amongst politicians, the media and the general public in the decades before the First World War. Here is a statement made in a letter by Lord Randolph Churchill and another by Winston Churchill in the UK parliament.

Premonitions of war with Germany evident in the media and popular literature are discussed in Minds at War.

Randolph Churchill on avoiding war in Europe, (1866)

On the 22nd of December, 1886, the Chancellor of the Exchequer,Lord Randoph Churchill, wrote to Lord Salisbury, who had pointed out the desperate state of Europe and the possibilities of immediate war:

“A wise foreign policy will extricate England from Continental struggles and keep her outside of German, Russian, French, or Austrian disputes. I have for some time observed a tendency in the Government attitude to pursue a different line of action, which I have not been able to modify or check.

This tendency is certain to be accentuated if large Estimates [for Government spending] are presented to and voted by Parliament. The possession of a very sharp sword offers a temptation which becomes irresistible to demonstrate the efficiency of the weapon in a practical manner. I remember the vulnerable and scattered character of the Empire, the universality of our commerce, the peaceful tendencies of our democratic electorate, the hard times, the pressure of competition, and the high taxation now imposed: and with these facts vividly before me I decline to be a party to encouraging the military and militant circle of the War Office and Admiralty to join in the high and desperate stakes which other nations seem to be forced to risk.”

Winston Churchill, speaking in Parliament on a European War, 13 May 1901

The enormous and varied frontiers of the Empire, and our many points of contact with barbarous peoples, will surely in the future, as in the past, draw us into frequent little wars. Our military system must therefore be adapted for dealing with these minor emergencies smoothly and conveniently. But we must not expect to meet the great civilized Powers in this easy fashion. We must not regard war with a modern Power as a kind of game in which we may take a hand, and with good luck and good management may play adroitly for an evening and come safe home with our winnings. It is not that, and I rejoice that it cannot be that.  A European war cannot be anything but a cruel, heartrending struggle, which, if we are ever to enjoy the bitter fruits of victory, must demand, perhaps for several years, the whole manhood of the nation, the entire suspension of peaceful industries, and the concentrating to one end of every vital energy in the community.

I have frequently been astonished since I have been in this House to hear with what composure and how glibly Members, and even Ministers, talk of a European war. I will not expatiate on the horrors of war, but there has been a great change which the House should not omit to notice. In former days, when wars arose from individual causes, from the policy of a Minister or the passion of a King, when they were fought by small regular armies of professional soldiers, and when their course was retarded by the difficulties of communication and supply, and often suspended by the winter season, it was possible to limit the liabilities of the combatants. But now, when mighty populations are impelled on each other, each individual severally embittered and inflamed—when the resources of science and civilization sweep away everything that might mitigate their fury—a European war can only end in the ruin of the vanquished and the scarcely less fatal commercial dislocation and exhaustion of the conquerors.

 

Three Poems by Wolf

Three Poems by Wolf  who served in Norther Ireland

2 Minutes

(from ‘The Way of the Wolf – Poetry of a Veteran’ ISBN 9780956488527)

During the 2 minutes you’ll, maybe, remember some of us.
The years of silence our memories still sentence us to,
You’ll forget.

The unspoken wound that can’t be seen,
Carrying the memories of service,
You won’t hear.

Standing tall, we’ll walk by you,
Never showing the open wounds,
That cut like knives.

2 minutes later, You’ll be back to your life.
2 minutes later, We’ll still be trying to make sense of ours.
2 minutes later, another November morning will be forgotten.
© Copyright of V Sunkmanitu 2010
Bottles and Bricks
(From ‘Words of a Wolf – Poetry of a Veteran’ ISBN 9780956488503)

The sun is shining, the sky is blue.
The silence is sudden and tangible,
The birds stop singing.
It’s as if someone pushed pause on the video.
As if by magic a crowd appears across the road,
Parents stand behind their children.
The first brick sails through the air towards my head,
I casually slip to my left and it misses me.
I focus on the crowd watching for a petrol bomb,
While signalling my oppo to call for back up.
My hand reaches down and I free the pistol from my
holster,
Chambering a round in case I see a legit target.

Parents are throwing bottles and bricks, teaching their kids how,
The kids are smiling as they mimic their parents,
Echoing shouts of ‘Feck off home, we don’t want yous
here.’
‘Catch this you English bastard!’
I smile to myself as I consider my ethnicity.

I continually scan all of them,
A thousand thoughts go through my mind at the same
time,
Am I cleared to open fire?
Not until I see a weapon or a petrol bomb.
If I have to open fire will the round go through my target?
Will it hit an innocent? The brain keeps storming.

I duck inside the shelter to my left and watch and listen,
Bricks, stones and bottles hit the shelter,
Glass splinters around me. I tense for a sprint toward the crowd.

I hear the patrol land rovers screaming towards us,
The crowd runs off behind the fisheries,
I give chase but they’ve reached safety.
The patrols hit the ground ready to chase the crowd,
Young, determined faces with their emotions locked down.

‘Forget it,’ I hear my voice say,
‘We can’t go into the Holiday Homes. Orders.’
I return to my post as the patrol heads off.
I make my weapon safe.
My oppo sticks his head out of the bunker,
‘You okay’? I look up and smile the empty smile,
‘Fuckin’ peachy.’

The birds start singing again.

© Copyright of V Sunkmanitu 2010

Dreaded reviews
(From ‘Soul of a Wolf – Poetry of a Veteran’ ISBN 9780956488596)

The brown envelope hits my mat and I wonder if it’s review time.
I open the envelope and realise it is.
I withdraw into myself as I remember the process,
The pain of it,
The mental anguish,
The feeling of helplessness.
All components of PTSD,
Adding to the existing difficulties,
That echo through my being and rip open my scars.
My soul forced under a microscope,
My mind raped by white coats that tick boxes for pay,
Some with ulterior motives.
National Insurance they call it,
For 32 years I have worked in this country,
Paying my dues while risking my neck.
Yet they try to withdraw what they owe every chance they get.
So I sit here dreading another review,
That brings my past into sharp relief,
The paper scalpel cutting open the scars,
Their ears closed to the silent screams that echo through my being,
My soul pleading for the end of this journey,
I wonder why the system can’t conduct this process in a more humane way.
© Copyright of V Sunkmanitu 2012

Villayat ‘Wolf’ Sunkmanitu
Wolf Photography & SnowMoon Wolf
Not-For-Profit companies
Accredited member of the GNS Press Association – European News Agency.

Website: www.wolf-photography.com
Blogger: www.wolfphotograpy.blogspot.co.uk
Facebook: www.facebook.com/Wolf.Photographer
Twitter: www.twitter.com/#!/wolf_photo

You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/user/wolf19643

 

PTSD Support Organisation run by “Wolf”

PTSD – Soldiers  -  Poetry  -  Photography

One of the commonest sufferings of soldiers returning from active service is PTSD (Post traumatic Stress Disorder) and this can be absolutely devastating for the soldiers and their families.

An ex serviceman who knows personally what it is all about is “Wolf” who has set up a not-for -profit organisation to help others like himself. Here are the details:

Wolf Photography (Main project page) & SnowMoon Wolf (publishing wing)
The aimof these Not For Profit company is to raise awareness of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), educate on Intellectual Property issues and promote creative arts as a coping mechanism for disability. There are various resources on the website to help guide people with PTSD to areas of support.
The main project website is: www.wolf-photography.com
The main resources URL is: www.lwptsd.com
You can hear interviews about the project carried out by various BBC stations on: https://soundcloud.com/villayat-wolf-sunkmanitu
There are three volumes of poetry that make up the Poetry of a Veteran trilogy:
The Way of the Wolf – Poetry of a Veteran
Waterstones
Some of the titles are also available on Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Villayat-Sunkmanitu/e/B004M3UXJO

Two poems by Paul Granier translated by Ian Higgins

TWO POEMS BY PAUL GRANIER from Cockerels and Vultures

The Andante

The rain, endlessly unravelling;

the rain, shovelling at the mud the whole sullen day;

the rain, unendingly sobbing its toneless chords;

and the whispering wind, crumbling the cloud into drizzle . . .

Why, this evening, am I haunted so

by that majestic andante

from the Seventh Symphony?

Its chords, as magnificently simple

as the triumphal arches of the ancients,

hold me in a vast enchantment.

Its harmony is velvet to my soul,

its murmur a caress that soothes

the melancholy as we pick our way

along the bank of this canal.

The rain has never stopped . . .

The mud is all long, snaking rivulets of agate

and clouded onyx, chopped into splashes

with every drawn-out hoof-fall of my horse.

The rain has never stopped, the whole lead-blue day.

The andante

gently eases my resentment

with its divine serenity . . .

Ah, those Sundays, not two years ago —

the Sunday afternoons,

the lamp-lit hall,

the huge orchestra a single mind and spirit

in every flying bow-tip:

The miraculous fluid

a fountain spreading up to the galleries, then

falling like snowflakes onto souls laid bare,

like springtime sunlight through stained glass

on a girl’s communion veil.

The andante,

the andante is gentle, with a touch of sadness,

like an autumn evening over ponds,

or the voix céleste of an organ;

and my chrysalid soul

weaves itself a wonderful cocoon

from this aching blessedness,

on the purple silk weft of the rain.

Paul Granier, Chauvoncourt road. 1915, translated by Ian Higgins.

 

The Mortars

Juddering iron buckets clanging,

jerking deadweight chains clanking,

the thunderlumbering caravan

labours on, along the baking roads and tracks,

all thunderous crash and clash.

The straining, weary horses

ponderingly nod,

as though to doubt

their onward slog will ever end . . .

Wheels as thick as millstones

mill the crunching road.

And in towns and villages along the way

thunderstruck groups watch

the deadweight cortege of death grind past,

the squat carriages, bolt-stubbled muscles bulging,

and, mute, menacing, brutal,

the black barrels, muzzled and bound like lunatics.

Paul Granier, 1914, translated by Ian Higgins.

Review of Cockerels and Vultures by Paul Granier

FROM AN REVIEW IN GUILD OF BATTLEFIELD GUIDES MAGAZINE

“By 1914 French poetry had come much further along the path of modernism than British poetry. Where many of the British combatant war poets struggled at first to find the language and forms through which to convey their experience of modern industrial warfare, a young poet like Granier could employ a rhythmic free verse with ease and animate his battle scenes and war-torn landscapes with bold original imagery.

These are the poems of a Frenchman in another sense too: they vividly depict a landscape and culture that have been destroyed and their mood varies from pathos to horror as Granier observes processions of refugees, abandoned dogs, burnt-out hamlets and wrecked churches. There is a demonic power in the forces of war that shatter nature and a deadly calm in the war-torn landscapes that result.

They are also the poems of a soldier and an artilleryman. The big guns are portrayed animalistically, in dramatic but fine detail, as they blunder through tiny villages at night, a ‘deadweight cortege of death’ (‘The Mortars’), or in battle ‘rear their black necks like snakes striking,/Spewing

hatred by the mouthful’ (‘The Battle’). And yet, as they ‘stop for breath’, the battle over, the poet cannot refrain from ‘lovingly, gently’ patting ‘the weary guns’. In ‘The Fort’, the determination with which Fort Troyon at Verdun was held in September 1914 is celebrated. The paradoxes of war are here, as well as all its deadly and surreal power.”   -  Vivien Whelpton.

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Paul Granier, 1917. Believed to be the last photograph taken of him. Used by permission of the Albert-Paul Granier Estate.

The discovery of Granier – major French poet of the First World War

The discovery of a major poet of the First World War

Cockerels and Vultures is a book for everyone interested in the poetry of the First World War.

More information below.

Fr cov B 6 8 13

Cockerels and Vultures

The discovery of a major poet of the First World WarThe chance finding of a 90-year-old slim and musty little volume of poetry at a jumble sale in France led to the discovery of a major poet of the First World War. For almost 90 years Albert-Paul Granier was unknown in his own country. The poetry was a revelation to the finder. Granier was soon republished in France and astonished French readers. Granier stands comparison with the best of British war poets.
Now English-speaking readers can encounter this exceptional talent through Ian Higgins’ fine translation.
Cockerels and Vultures is a book for everyone interested in the poetry of the First World War.
Published January 2014 by Saxon Books in paperback at £9-95.
ISBN 978-0-9528969-7-5

Albert-Paul Granier

Albert-Paul Granier was born in 1888 in Le Croisic, on the Atlantic coast of Brittany. He was a talented sportsman, musician and poet. He qualified as a solicitor, but, from 1911 to 1913, he was required by compulsory national service to serve in the army, where he trained as an artillery officer. He was recalled to the army in August 1914 and served on the Western Front. He became an airborne artillery observer and was shot down and killed over the battlefields of Verdun on 17 August 1917. His volume of war poetry, Les Coqs et les Vautours, had just been published in Paris. It was singled out for praise by the Académie Française in 1918 before falling, unaccountably, into obscurity.

The Translator, Ian Higgins

Since the dramatic rediscovery of Albert-Paul Granier the translator, Ian Higgins, has been in close contact with the poet’s surviving relatives, and is uniquely placed to introduce this remarkable writer to English-speaking readers.

FROM A REVIEW IN GUILD OF BATTLEFIELD GUIDES MAGAZINE

Cockerels and Vultures by Paul Granier, Translated by Ian Higgins, Published by Saxon Books
“By 1914 French poetry had come much further along the path of modernism than British poetry. Where many of the British combatant war poets struggled at first to find the language and forms through which to convey their experience of modern industrial warfare, a young poet like Granier could employ a rhythmic free verse with ease and animate his battle scenes and war-torn landscapes with bold original imagery.

These are the poems of a Frenchman in another sense too: they vividly depict a landscape and culture that have been destroyed and their mood varies from pathos to horror as Granier observes processions of refugees, abandoned dogs, burnt-out hamlets and wrecked churches. There is a demonic power in the forces of war that shatter nature and a deadly calm in the war-torn landscapes that result.

They are also the poems of a soldier and an artilleryman. The big guns are portrayed animalistically, in dramatic but fine detail, as they blunder through tiny villages at night, a ‘deadweight cortege of death’ (‘The Mortars’), or in battle ‘rear their black necks like snakes striking,/Spewing

hatred by the mouthful’ (‘The Battle’). And yet, as they ‘stop for breath’, the battle over, the poet cannot refrain from ‘lovingly, gently’ patting ‘the weary guns’. In ‘The Fort’, the determination with which Fort Troyon at Verdun was held in September 1914 is celebrated. The paradoxes of war are here, as well as all its deadly and surreal power.” – Vivien Whelpton.

Exceptional French War Poet

FrenchPoetFirst WorldWarWEBa

Almost Unknown French War Poet

He died in 1917 at Verdun. Wrote war poetry of exceptional quality. Was praised by The Académie Francaise. Was forgotten for ninety years, unknown even in France . . .  but at last you can read his poems in English.

22 November 2013

NOW PUBLISHED by Saxon Books (January 2014):  Cockerels and Vultures (French Poetry of the First World War) translated into English by Ian Higgins

For more information about the book and its author, plus two of Granier’s poems click here.

Fr cov B 6 8 13

Published by Saxon Books at £9-95

More about Cockerels and Vultures and purchasing information.

Christianity and the First World War

How was it possible for countries that were Christian to fight each other? – Some notes towards an answer to this question.

Violence, fighting, and warfare are, of course, completely alien to Christian teaching. Christianity has, at its core, the concept of love and therefore respect for every human being. See below for details.

The conduct of the First World War, therefore, in that millions of people in allegedly Christian countries set out to kill millions of people in other countries, was anti-Christian.

How was it possible for so many people to ignore the core tenets of their faith?

A pro-war mindset for the general populations in the belligerent countries was made possible partly by the new-found power of state-backed media and, partly, by Christian leaders (in Britain at least) misinterpreting Christian teaching and promoting a perversion of Christianity.

As in many wars, the propagandists working to promote the wars portrayed the enemy as evil and their own country as good and this had the implication that the war was a struggle between good and evil. In a very simplistic logical sense it was suggested that it was right for the good to destroy the evil (enemy). This was a popular justification for the war and it was easy for all sides to point to enemy actions of killing and destruction which could, with justification, be described as evil.

The English Poet Laureate (officially appointed state poet) Robert Bridges wrote a letter which appeared in The Times on 1 September 1914 in which he stated, “those who fight for them will fight for ‘the devil and all his works,’ and those who fight against them will be fighting in the holy cause of humanity and the law of love. If the advocacy of their bad principles and their diabolical conduct do not set the whole world against them, then the world is worse than I think. . . There was never anything in the world worthier of extermination and it is the plain duty of all civilised nations to unite to drive it back into its home and exterminate it there.” – Minds at War, P 51.

The following day Robert Bridges attended the inaugural meeting of the government’s secret war propaganda bureau. He was an enthusiastic member needing no encouragement to shout for war.

His poem, Wake Up, England, had been published in The Times on 8 August 1914. Here are three of the eight verses.

Thou careless, awake!
Thou peacemaker, fight!
Stand, England, for honour,
And God guard the Right!

Much suffering shall cleanse thee:
But thou through the flood
Shalt win to Salvation,
To Beauty through blood.

Up, careless, awake!

Ye peacemakers, Fight!
ENGLAND STAND FOR HONOUR.
GOD DEFEND THE RIGHT!

(Minds at War p38.There are more poems in a similar vein in Minds at War.)

 As an example of the perversion of Christian teaching here is the statement by Canon J H Skrine of Merton College Oxford, found in a pamphlet issued by the National Service League. “War is not murder. . .  War is sacrifice. The fighting and killing are not of the essence of it, but are the accidents, though the inseparable accidents; and even these, in the wide modern fields where a soldier rarely in his own sight sheds any blood on his own, where he lies on the battle sward not to inflict death but to endure it  -  even these are mainly purged of savagery and transfigured into devotion. War is not murder but sacrifice which is the soul of Christianity.” Out in the Dark, p136.

I’m not sure how many people would be convinced by this argument but there are reasons whole nations take up arms against other nations and the main factor is a sense of fear of the “enemy”. An expert witness on the subject of taking nations to war is Hermann Goering. This is what he said in 1946. “ The people don’t want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

(Quoted in Nuremberg Diary by Gustave Gilbert from a conversation Gilbert had with Hermann Goering in his cell at the Nuremberg War crimes trial 18 April 1946.)

How did the British people come to fear the German people in 1914? It was not an overnight conversion. In fact there had been many years of talk of the “German threat” in the media and in particular in The Daily Mail and The Observer newspapers. Some bestselling books about the German threat added to the wariness of ordinary people. Of course, for many years, this was just talk, but when Germany invaded a neutral country, Belgium, the threats began to look like a reality. Soon there were reports of German atrocities in Belgium, some true, some exaggerated, and some fictitious. Nevertheless an arm quickly spread and sympathy for Belgium was genuine. Soon Belgian refugees were arriving in Britain. (See Minds at War p52-53 and 216 for more details.)

If any more evidence was needed that Germany was a threat to Britain it was soon provided by the Germans themselves when, from the sea, they started bombarding East and West Hartlepool, Scarborough, and Southend. The destruction and casualties were fairly minimal, but the propaganda own goal from the German point of view was enormous. These raids were soon to be followed with Zeppelin and aeroplane bombing raids. The Germans had confirmed themselves as the enemy of Britain.

Once the war was declared the government brought in censorship, managed the media through its influence with key owners, and established a secret war propaganda bureau which a number of writers including the poets Robert Bridges, Rudyard Kipling and Thomas Hardy soon began to work for. (See Minds at War p54 and 58-67 for more details.)

Britain’s greatest military disaster, the first day of the Battle of the Somme, when 20,000 men were killed was announced to the world by The Times with the assessment of the battle as “complete success”.

When conscription was brought in it became harder for ordinary citizens to keep out of the army. They had to take a personal stand and become conscientious objectors. Three quarters of a million men applied for exemption from fighting and were brought before tribunals specially set up to test the authenticity of their consciences. These tribunals accepted only 16,500 men as conscientious objectors. The consequence for many of these was often severe. Thousands were imprisoned. Many were tortured and 71 died in prison. (Minds at War  p199 and Gerard de Groot, Blighty, British Society in the Era of the Great War. p155.)

David Roberts, 21 August 2013

Note: Christian teaching on war

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied,  ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”  Matthew Chapter 22, v36-40.

“I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Luke, Chapter 6, v27.